i struggled to write this weekend; i wrote, but everything seemed to come hard out of these fingertips, and i finally just stopped, no mas, no mas. i'd earlier said to a friend i might write the truth about my mother's death, yesterday being 6 months since her death, but i didn't/couldn't/wouldn't, and that built a wall i couldn't climb over. so, like i said, i just stopped, and went about my business, which eventually led me to sunday morning, dealing with things at my mother's house, sprinklers and lights and all that everyday stuff that doesn't go away, and crying all the while, this 6 month anniversary hitting me harder than i'd thought it would - lately i cry, therefore i am.
there is a table there that is mine now, a table i want to paint, a table i haven't painted, and i can give you all kinds of logistical sane reasons as to why i haven't, but the truth is, if i paint it, it will no longer be hers, and it is another part of her gone. if i don't paint it, i won't bring it home and her being gone will not be staring me in the face. i tell myself it will be no different than having her cat, but that's not true - daily i watch the cat adjust to here, to me, learn the secret places of the house and yard, the scary places, the hidey-holes. that table will just sit and look at me and be a new scary place, and it will be up to me to adjust. i tell myself it is just a stupid table, just do it, but this grief for my mother moves so differently than the grief for my father, and i am just frozen. i want nothing. i want it to just disappear. i dread thanksgiving and christmas - after my father's death, i wanted holidays to be bigger; now i just want them to go away.
so. yesterday. my mother's house. i fell apart. i sat in the dining area and leaned my forehead against that table and cried and had a conversation with it, and it told me to just tell the truth and let it go. some people know anyway - just say the words and let them go.
i warn you - it's not pretty.
for three weeks they kept my mother tied to her bed, said she was too anxious, too agitated. they kept her tied to her bed and they kept her drugged. in the end, they gave her a drug they shouldn't have given her. twice. despite the black box warning that said not to, that it could have fatal consequences for someone with her heart condition. i paid $160 to get partial medical records to tell me that. i'd bought those records because i knew in my heart, and, even more strongly, in my belly, that this drug was responsible. what i didn't know was that they'd used it twice - she'd struggled back from it the first time, made her way off life support; they gave it to her again and that time she didn't come home.
i hadn't said anything to them about the first time because i was scared - i was unsure of the drug's name and they had all the power; i was only allowed to see her 3 times a day for not very long, and i was afraid to rock the boat. and now she is gone and i blame myself for not saying anything. it matters not that i know this is what people do after a death, blame themselves - i do it anyway. they had power and they had information i didn't - kidney failure, pneumonia, both of which were improving when i finally learned of them, while being pressured to sign a dnr. my mother left no one in charge of her medical journey, so it fell to me, the oldest, the only daughter, but i would not make decisions without my brothers' input. we begged to have a meeting with her doctor, he who told me we needed to decide whether to let her live or not, but no meeting ever occurred. the one we did manage to schedule, the one that was to take place in her cubicle in the icu, where there were not enough chairs, and i sat crosslegged on the floor, he skipped. one of my brothers has never met him. the night before her death, when i finally agreed to the dnr, when we finally received information enough to change the mind of one of my brothers, he being the last holdout, there was no meeting. indeed, there was no meeting room, the icu conference rooms being turned into employee break rooms, empty coke cans still on tables. we were to have had a speakerphone conference call with a physician's assistant, but neither room had a working phone - one had no phone jack. in the end, a frustrated nurse turned her cell phone to speaker and held it in the air so we could talk.
i ok'd the dnr in tears and walked away, back again in less than 12 hours to use the only power i did have, the power to end my mother's life. it is a horrible thing, that power, and i was alone, my brothers not there, one not even reachable by phone. it was time, i could see that, i knew to let her go, but i couldn't. i walked outside into the darkness, to the top of the parking garage, where i could sit with the night. it rained a bit and i called michael and i walked around and took cellphone pictures of the night as it turned into dawn. i said goodbye to her outside and finally went back in. by then my sister-in-law was there and with her courage and love, i told the nurse yes. the machine was disconnected and i laid my hand on my mother's heart and in less than 5 minutes she was gone. i'd asked them earlier to untie her from the bed.
there is nothing i can do legally - i've investigated. but i am angry still and that anger is part of my grief and i don't know how to not feel what i feel. i don't think anything was done with malice, but much was done with sloppiness and heartlessness. there are things i am still not saying out loud to you; i have agonized for months about the telling out loud of this. i don't know if it will help. i want an apology from the doctor and from the hospital, but i want to say thank you to the nurses. i want that table to be white and i want to still feel my mother when i am seated there, but i want to not feel guilt. i don't know if any of that is possible.
it is still my home,
and now holds this summer of heat,
a new cat in the shadows of the yard,
and a robin standing in the shade of the hackberry tree,
right where he stood weeks ago
when i first figured a way to hang a water sprinkler in its branches
and let it rain.
right there on one of the roots that is impossible to mow around.
my home has dreams and open doors,
sueños y puertas abiertas y más;
last night the dream was owls in trees,
the feel of those trees with owls aboard,
branches bending low before untamed breezes,
green leaves glowing under the night's wind filled sky,
and it was home.
que era mi casa.
it was the streets around me,
not ending at my door,
and there was real rain in my dream,
and there was real rain outside.
the ground was still damp when i awoke,
and it was still home.
too much noise, too much brightness, too much color, too many patterns, too much stuff on the page i'm reading. i detest the ticket tape news scrawls at the bottom of all the news stations, now even the local ones. it is just too much and it beats against me until i can't think, can't read, can't write, can't breathe.
this past week i stepped away from facebook, leaving my account open for nothing but hard cold-blooded reasons - i have readers who get here via there - and i feel pretty awful about that, not that they come here from there, but that i think about it in such a business-like way; it feels untrue, it feels like i'm taking advantage of facebook, if such a thing could be possible, and it feels like i am being rude and unfair to those readers, and i apologize if you are one, if you feel that way. this past week, also, i opened a twitter account, which lasted just a few days. everyone was wonderful - everyone has always been wonderful - but it was too much noise. too much. so i deleted that, then rethought it, and re-opened it this morning.
i began to write this last night, after a panic attack. a big one. i was 4 hours past its beginning and it had eased, but only with the help of more than my normal drug dosage when dealing with such things. i was into the crying part - the part where it was finally over and i could cry without fear of making it worse. i was exhausted emotionally, and it was a picture of my year. it has been too much. i need a baby step back.
i am perhaps doing the wrong thing, perhaps not playing the networking game correctly, but i am taking that babystep away from it a bit, just keeping my toe in the water, stepping back to where i used to be. here, where writing saved me. i am mulling over possibilities for combining emma tree and the thief of quotations, although i may not, it may be too difficult. i find the simplicity of the thief draws me, entices me, and i am listening to my heart when it tells me what i need right now. i will still be here, it is my place, but i will simplify. i may change the name to encompass everything. i may not, i think not, emma tree is me, but i need less noise. softer lights. faded colors.
what i know is that i need some time to be me again, to not be the person worrying about how to get her stuff published, though i would love that, to not be the person worrying about attracting more readers, though i would love that also. i need some time to find my stories again, stories beyond grief and heat, though there will still be some of those.
i need a year, i think. alfred stieglitz gave georgia o'keeffe a year - i give it to myself.
so. expect a few changes here and there - not many, not much; the words will still be here. i just need some space around them. and besides, i imagine i will clutter the space up again within this coming year.
this morning's turtle under the fig tree makes me feel i should change this image.
it was yesterday's truth.
i'd stood in my mother's back yard under rain empty skies and cried,
the fig tree especially breaking my heart.
half the leaves gone bright yellow.
many brown and curled,
many on the ground below.
yesterday's truth felt hopeless and dry.
but then, that turtle.
alive, alive, oh, muddying its turtle toes in tiny ponds 'neath the tree;
i'd soaked it all night,
- the tree, not the turtle -
and the ground was grateful with squishiness,
the turtle a golden morning color.
the fig leaves smelled like heaven.
a texas purdah,
hiding me from the heat and from heartbreak.
keep the mini blinds down,
keep the car windows tinted,
wear those sunglasses and keep everyone away.
such a temptation.
i am propped on the bed having one of those conversations with myself.
please tell me you have them -
the ones that say this book will keep you safe,
the ones that say you can call pizza delivery.
the ones that say you can kindle a new book if needed.
but truest of all is the heat outside
105 incredible degrees that say just stand in us a bit
and we will change your mind about that pizza.
oranges will call your name.
tacos de pollo con aguacate y salsa.ice.
we will change your mind about kindling a book.
bookstores will beckon cool and quiet,
the pages of possibilities soothing and sensuous;
you will have to remove those sunglasses and look around.
the only purdah you will have is the one you take with you.
you are your own religion.
the heat is wise.
though there is little i can do about the tinted windows.
i've been antsy lately, feeling caged in, feeling this, feeling that. last week i thought my heart was broken. i cried and i watched tv and i stayed in bed and eight cousins became my book of choice. i felt like nothing was working, everything was changing, still, still, still, always, never stopping, even though i stopped, trying in my stopping to stop everything else, knowing despite my stillness that i needed an escape place, a panic room, somewhere to run.
enter the thief of quotations. that would be me, and that is my rabbit hole. i have just begun the fall, and you will think it not me, perhaps, until you begin to read. i have plans, but i will not rush the fall. i am unsure of everything except this: there will be quotations. and they will be about magic and truth and life. and there will be pictures. there will be stories and i am hoping there will be guests. it will be about writing. about words. there will be links and videos and songs and poetry. and i hope there will be you.
my personal stories will stay here, though no doubt sometimes the two will pass each other on the road. the thief, despite her name, will be more open, will share a bit more of the wonders of others. a bit of robin hood is in her blood.
she is here.
and she says hello.
i have no picture tonight, but it's not needed.
we are all under the same moon,
so just step outside and let that knowing be my picture.
if it is tomorrow, remember the light falling to earth.
we are in the same place.
this morning's black butterfly escaped the cat's claws, and the promise of rain was just empty grey skies. the oak tree across the street is down at last. i am thinking in twitter time, short sentences, short thoughts, but living in moon time, blurs, milkiness, no way to know where it ends or begins. tonight's moon seemed to tip the top of the fig tree in my mother's back yard, pouring moonbeams onto leaves gone yellow from thirst and heat. i move the sprinklers here and there, back and forth, hither and yon, but it is never enough and never right - i am a triage nurse for the trees and grass; tonight i stood under an oak tree in her front yard and the leaves dropped water in thanks for their turn today. tomorrow a different spot. and then nothing more until midweek when i will stand and make decisions once again.
but perhaps it will rain - an easy thing to say when night is around me, when darkness disguises the need and anything seems possible. last night life as i once knew it seemed once again possible. a break in the heat and i was into the late dark, under the moon; it smelled like the heat of maggie's last summer, when she and i would sit together in the blackness, and it came to me that that was two summers ago, that i had lost last year to grief for her and this year to grief for my mother, standing hand-in-hand with heat. too long, but grief's footsteps cannot be measured - it has secret strengths, it is sneaky and sly and ruthless. but it is not immortal; last night i stood with the moon, the one that lives in my mother's backyard, and it felt just fine.
tomorrow, who knows?
the butterfly may be the cat's breakfast.
sometimes you awake with words on your tongue,
the north wind under my brambled feet,
and though they are your words,
you are sure dylan thomas has been dream hopping
and hiding words beneath your sleeping pillows.
sometimes you step into the day
and there is a red wasp taking his last breaths atop a green pecan,
there on the sidewalk at your feet
as they flipflop their way into the sun of the backyard;
you have to sidestep jump to avoid both,
and you understand suddenly the dream warning of brambled feet.
sometimes there is pound cake for breakfast,
plain, cold from the refrigerator, soothing to your stomach,
and when you cut a fat slice,
the crumbs fall from the knife in the shapes of hearts.
sometimes the poetry is your skin itself, your alone heart.
sometimes those crumbs are the tastiest of all.
sometimes you have to pick them up and touch them to your tongue.
summer trip traveling turquoise
i feel swimming shorts soda pops
two-lane blacktops soft under the sun.
i see arizona here-we-come arms out the window
feet on the dash
midnight radio light my fire
truck stop breakfasts
laps full of maps.
i know stars sunsets saguaros sage
free ice flat tires cheap gas.
i am always august about-to-start-school hot
baseball almost football almost fair time.
almost enough time.
katie's kitchen window morning early fuzziness,
she likes big bowls and she cannot lie,
and small ones and polka dots;
even the morning colored shadows dropped by leaves
are polka dots strewn across the roof of the little house out back.
her view is the backyard and down,
mine is the front and out.